A privately funded trolley bus route for tourists will begin service Saturday, aimed at encouraging LSU game day out-of-towners to enjoy Baton Rouge’s culture, food and shopping opportunities.
The weekend bus route, called Trolley Rouge, will kick off Oct. 1 and run through Nov. 26 with stops including Hollywood Casino, downtown Baton Rouge, Perkins Rowe and Towne Center at Cedar Lodge. The route also passes in front of the Governor’s Mansion, the Old Governor’s Mansion, the USS Kidd, the State Capitol, LSU and the Garden District.
Trolleys also will stop at hotels on Constitution Avenue and Corporate Boulevard.
The trolleys are run by the Capital Area Transit System, and are almost entirely funded through private sponsorships.
Hollywood Casino provided the largest contribution of $5,000 and Towne Center and Perkins Rowe each provided a $2,500 subsidy.
Hilton Hotel, Hotel Indigo, Crowne Plaza Hotel and the Downtown Business Association each contributed $250.
CATS Chief Administrative Officer Brian Marshall said private funds account for all but about $2,000 of the operating budget to run the route. He said that money will be covered by the $4 day pass to ride the bus.
The route, Marshall said, “aims to harness the roughly 200,000 visitors in town for football season and introduce them to the gem that is Baton Rouge.”
“We recognize our city can be challenging to navigate, so this new route removes the stress of getting around town,” Marshall said.
Towne Center Property Manager Doris Volentine said the public-private partnership was a good opportunity for businesses to help promote the city.
“We really are looking forward to showcasing what Baton Rouge has here for visitors and for all the people that actually live here in Baton Rouge,” Volentine said.
The route will run on Saturdays from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. and Sundays from noon until 4 p.m. There is an expected wait of 40 minutes between buses.
Marshall said CATS is working with the Baton Rouge Area Convention and Visitors Bureau to recruit volunteers who can act as tour guides.
Paul Arrigo, visitors bureau president, said there may be printed materials or recordings for the bus tours to educate visitors about Baton Rouge’s sights.
Passes will be sold at the Hilton Hotel Capital Center, Hotel Indigo and other area hotels and at CATS headquarters.
Marshall said he expects about 500 rides per day.
The three trolleys used for the route are only used downtown during the week, so using them on weekends does not interfere with CATS regular fleet.
Mayor-President Kip Holden applauded CATS, which has been plagued with past budget problems, for demonstrating innovation.
“You’re reaching out and marketing a lot more of our programs and what we have to offer,” Holden said. “By going out and capturing that audience we had not captured before, it’s going to be a great thing for Baton Rouge and a great thing for CATS.”